How to Rule at Back to School

I can’t find my shoes! Johnny’s hogging the bathroom! I need poster board, markers, and an eye of newt from Alcatraz by tomorrow!

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the thought of back to school time? Dreading the exhaustion of the chaotic morning rush?

What if I told you that you can get your family back to school with ease? No more whining, fighting, or first thing in the morning trips to Alcatraz. Simply follow these few easy tips to get your family headed back to school with a smile!

1. Have a schedule/routine

How your morning starts will dictate your energy and attitude for the rest of your day. In the same way, how your children’s morning starts will do the same for them. You want to aim to start your family’s day with a calming peace that radiates happiness, joy, and inspiration for the day to come. How can you do this? By taking the pain out of mornings with a simple schedule or routine.

Decide, no less than one week in advance, what time your children have to be dropped off at school or get to the bus. Go back from there to schedule when you need to leave home, or head out to the bus stop. How much time will each child need to get ready? Figure out an adequate wake-up time for each family member based on your findings.

For example, my back to school morning routine consists of myself, my teenage son, eight-year-old daughter, and five and six-year-old grandchildren. To accommodate my son’s desire to shower before school (rather than in the evening) he wakes up 30 minutes before the rest of the kids. Because I like to be awake before the day begins, I wake my son and then enjoy a cup of coffee while he showers. Once the bathroom is free, the little ones wake up in two-minute intervals so each can use the bathroom upon waking. They then get dressed, brush teeth, get their hair done and are off to school in a jiffy. How? By rotating which activity each child is doing. While one is brushing their teeth, the next is getting their hair done, and the third is getting dressed. A few moments later they are rotating to the next activity. This keeps everyone out of each other’s way and allows everything to be done in the shortest amount of time. The extra shut-eye and lack of fighting over the bathroom will be a blessing to both you and your kids!

Imagine for a moment the insane chaos that would ensue if everyone woke up at the same time, trying to accomplish the same things, in the same space, and all you want is a fricken’ cup of coffee already!

Take the deadlines you need to meet and arrange your schedule/ routine to accommodate each member of your family in the easiest and timeliest manner possible. Working together to create a family schedule will not only offer valuable insight, but when your kids help to create the schedule they are more motivated to follow it.

Begin implementing your family schedule one to two weeks before the start of the new school year to allow time to work out any potential kinks in the plan.

Apply the same trick to after school/homework time and bedtime routines and you’ll be sailing through your day in no time!

2. Delegate with charts/pictures

There’s nothing worse than telling the same child forty-seven hundred times to brush their teeth, wash their face, get dressed, find their shoes… every. single. morning.

I know, I’ve been there.

“It’s the same thing, every single day,” I think to myself over my now cold cup of coffee, “How do they not know what they’re supposed to be doing?”

Well, perhaps because I’m not giving them the tools that they need. They consistently rely on me to give them reminders because I am not providing them reminders in an ‘easier for everybody’ way.

Ready to save your voice and enjoy a warm cup of coffee while your kids get ready for school?

Simply make a task chart. Pictures help for those who can’t read yet. Even those that can read will know exactly what needs to be done in a single glimpse with pictures.

Without overwhelming the walls of your home, delegate your child’s to-do tasks with simple picture charts. For best results, strive to keep it short and sweet.

For example:

  • Make bed (picture: made bed)
  • Get dressed (picture: outfit/clothes)
  • Brush teeth (picture: toothbrush)
  • Comb hair (picture: hairbrush/comb)
  • Come see Mom ❤ (picture: Mom or heart)

Simple and easy to follow. Rather than not knowing what they need to do, getting distracted by everything under the sun but getting ready for school, or having to tell your kids forty-seven hundred times every day the same old things, they will have an easy reminder to reference. Plus, no day is ever started well when it starts with barking orders and whiny, tired kids. (Oddly enough, kids tend to whine at inanimate pictures much less than they do parents)

The last part is simply a way to kick start the day on the best foot. They come to you and are greeted with a good morning and a smile. Plus, it provides a moment to observe if they have completed everything they need to do without the need for nagging or helicoptering.

Just like with a schedule, create another short and sweet chart for the end of the day tasks. A great idea to add is to pick out clothes for the next day, as well as gather everything you need (backpacks, homework, coats, shoes) and put them in a designated place for the morning.

3. Build your preparation stations

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin

One would be hard pressed to find a better application for this quote than back to school time.

We’ve all been there. Every family seems to have that one child who can’t find their shoe in the morning or can’t find a pencil at homework time. A simple task becomes a two hour event merely because of the hunt for missing items.

Imagine for a moment that you were asked to help build a house. You show up on site. You’re even on time.  You are ready to build! Suddenly, the boss turns to you and asks; where is your hammer? Where are your nails? Where is your level? You look at him dumbfounded… and empty handed.

“What do you mean you didn’t bring the tools required to get the job done,” he rants and raves while haphazardly tearing through every available space that a hammer, nails, or level could hide. Mumbling on under his breath, he grumbles about your lack of preparation while meticulously searching for the necessary items.

~How many times has a similar scene occurred in your home?

Don’t worry, we can’t actually hear your answers. You can admit it, we tend to do the exact same thing to our children.

No matter the child, or the circumstances, setting your household up for success will undoubtedly lead to success. In the off chance that it doesn’t, at least you can save some sanity along the way.

Set up “preparation stations” throughout your home that will support your back to school goals and routines. For example:

  • Create a homework station

This doesn’t have to be anything super fancy. Chose a location. We use our dining room table. It is conveniently placed in the heart of our home, where no matter what Mom or Dad is up to, one of us is always close by when help is needed. There is adequate room for all four children to get their work done at once. Plus, they are right there to help each other as well. Stock your supplies. Keep a storage caddy close by that is stocked with all of the items necessary to complete homework. Pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, pencil sharpener, extra paper, etc. You can even hang a wall file organizer that is labeled with “incoming” and “outgoing” sections  for your kids to drop in papers that need to be signed or reviewed by parents.

  • Designate a drop spot

Avoid the dreaded time drainer of searching for missing shoes, disappearing backpacks, and long lost coats. Create a designated spot in your home that has adequate spacing for each child’s “off to school” items such as their shoes, backpack, lunch box, and coat. Make it a habit to have children always place these items in their designated spot when not in use.

  • Designate a pick-up spot

A pick-up spot has the same definition and follow-through as your drop spot, but for morning items. Designate a conveniently located spot for your children to set out their clothes for the next day. It doesn’t even have to be anything grand, we use a spare counter between our living room and front hallway. In years past, each child had one of those 5 section clothes organizers that hang in the closet where they would set an outfit out for each day of the week in.

Have a place for your things. Make it a household habit to keep things in their place. And remember, routinely check your homework supply caddy for any items you may need to re-stock on.

4. Set a “school year” goal

Goals give us something to focus on, work towards, and look forward to.

Many children are pretty excited to go back to school. It’s been months since they’ve seen their friends and they can’t wait to start wearing those new school shoes! But after a few months, the excitement of going to school is long since forgotten. Sometimes, even after a few days…. Without a goal, the school year becomes very mundane, very fast.

Keep the new school year motivation going strong all year long with an annual “back to school” goal.

In our home we each select one thing that we are going to focus on working towards for that school year. Things such as reading a book every night, make a new friend, learn to read, and remember my homework every day are all great examples.

My goal for this year is to:

  • Make attendance a priority

My children (not to sound like a bragging parent here or anything) are pretty good kids. I was blessed for sure. Every year so far, ten years and four years respectively, they have earned an award at every single award assembly. Yet, not once have they ever come remotely close to obtaining the “perfect attendance” award.

The problem? Maybe I relate too well to them. Maybe I allow them to be too human too often. Maybe, I’m just a bit of a pushover…. Whatever the cause, I let my kids “skip” sometimes when I feel they may truly need it. Let’s be honest, we all need a mental health day every so often. Unfortunately, I think I let “every so often” happen a bit too often. Once you add in absences for appointments and sickness and such, it can really add up!

I fully intend to continue respecting my children’s need to sometimes have to place their mental well being above the demands of daily life. But, as a parent, I also need to help them to recognize the difference between when we just don’t feel like it but have to anyway and a true need to prioritize our mental health.

Thus, results in my goal to make attendance a priority. By setting this goal I am naturally less inclined to allow them to stay home without good cause and they are less inclined to try pulling one over on me knowing it is not likely going to work in their favor. Plus, it helps to get me out of bed in the morning focused on the goal ahead.

While helping your children (and yourself) select one goal for the coming school year, work to steer them away from accomplishment centered goals and towards action-centered goals. For example; rather than making a goal to ‘obtain an “A+” in math class’ select a goal such as ‘practice math for 20 minutes each day’.

Let your family wake up ready to take on the day, and the year, with “school year” goals that will keep the focus, motivation, and inspiration going all school year long.

The cutest goal one of my kiddos have come up with yet:

“Be a good whritor” 

Getting your family back to school with a smile is a breeze when you follow a schedule, chart your tasks, build your stations, and work towards your goal.

Has the school year already begun in your home? Have no fear! You can successfully apply these same techniques in your household at any time of the year.

Here’s to an easy, breezy 2019-20 school year… and to finally being able to enjoy that morning cup of coffee while it’s still warm!



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